Archive for July, 2010
On the national front, the Economist talked about the new federal plan to end homelessness, commenting on the state of homelessness today and focusing on how employment must be a major focus when considering homelessness issues.
Architectural Record had an interview with Secretary Donovan of HUD (who is a trained architect, did you know??) and the Secretary discussed the role of architectural development in creating new affordable housing.
But a lot of the news this week has been about local communities, who are tackling homelessness in their own, tailored way.
In New Hampshire, a new plan is out to stop veteran homelessness, while in Kentucky they are changing the way they assist youth aging out of the foster care system so that they can avoid experiencing homelessness.
However, good news is coming out of in Lufkin, TX. They have just approved funds to not only help rebuild affordable housing for those displaced by natural disaster, but they’ve also approved funds to create new low-income housing in the area.
Communities all over the nation are becoming more aware about the people in their areas who are experiencing homelessness and working to prevent and end homelessness by implementing best practices and effective strategies most appropriate to their unique communities.
This morning, the House Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its fiscal year (FY) 2011 spending bill. (This is the subcommittee – along with its Senate counterpart – that governs the HUD budget.)
Although all of the details of the bill are not yet available, the legislation includes:
- $2.055 billion for the HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants (the amount requested by the Administration and a 10 percent increase over FY 2010);
- $75 million for HUD-VA Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers;
- $85 million for a Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration; and
- $350 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program (a $15 million increase over FY 2010).
Given the current budget climate and the emphasis on keeping the deficit down, we are delighted that the House has provided increased resources for each of these programs. In fact, if passed by Congress, this would be the largest one-year increase for the McKinney programs in 15 years.
However, it will require $2.4 billion to fully implement the HEARTH Act.
So we need you to get back to those phones and do YOUR part to ensure that you’re protecting the local programs that help our most vulnerable friends and neighbors.
- Contact your Representative and ask him/her to work throughout the rest of the appropriations process to provide additional funding for McKinney programs. (And if they happen to be a House T-HUD member, thank them for their work on the spending bill!)
- Call the housing staffers in your Senators’ office and ask them to work with Senate T-HUD members to provide the necessary $2.4 billion for McKinney programs in the Senate FY 2011 bill.
- Let us know what happened.Report all responses to Amanda Krusemark and let her know if you want to stay involved with Alliance advocacy efforts.
We know you’ve been working hard to work on this McKinney campaign – and we couldn’t make progress without you. And while advocacy can be sometimes-unglamorous work, we know that YOU’RE making the difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in our local communities and nationwide.
For additional details on the House’s HUD appropriations bill, visit our website.
And thanks for all your hard work!
And we’re back!
As the Alliance’s new media intern, I’m really excited to be writing this series, because every time I examine one of these goals, I get to learn about a new aspect of homelessness and solutions to homelessness (and really, that’s what the Alliance is all about).
This week we’ll be looking at Objective 10: “Transform homeless services to crisis response systems that prevent homelessness and rapidly return people who experience homelessness to stable housing.”
To learn more about this objective, I talked to Norm Suchar, our new (!) Director of the Center for Capacity Building (formerly senior policy analyst at the Alliance).
The first thing I tried to wrap my head around was what this objective meant, and why it was part of the federal plan.
Right now, the “crisis response system” in place is shelters. When someone encounters an event that creates a situation where they can no longer afford housing, the first response is to put them in a shelter.
This shelter system, however, is not effective if we are to eradicate homelessness. The crisis response system for homelessness needs to be transformed, so that when someone enters a crisis situation and that person’s housing needs are addressed, we turn to permanent solutions and not just shelter.
The system needs to be pretty sophisticated.
We’ll need to figure out what happened with each person and create customized solutions using the resources available to someone in that specific situation. And situations vary wildly: sometimes it’s a problem with a landlord; in this case, conflict management of the situation should be attempted. Maybe a person lost their job and can’t afford the rent this month; in that case, we could offer rent subsidies or rent assistance so that the person has some time to find employment.
These strategies that prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place – and that’s what a crisis response should be doing.
How will we achieve this?
The federal plan suggests several strategies, among them – the $1.5 billion stimulus-funded program Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).
The program is a primary tool in changing the infrastructure of the system. HPRP funds are intended to focus on key strategies to prevent and end homelessness – including prevention strategies and rapid re-housing strategies. Communities across the country are utilizing HPRP to systematically transform the way they approach homelessness at the local level. (In fact, we’re doing some reporting on it!)
Another key is to integrate mainstream poverty programs.
It’s no surprise that there exist federal programs to help vulnerable and low-income people and families, including Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid (now new and improved as a result of health care reform), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This is by no means an exhaustive list of available resources – but only by leveraging all the resources available for vulnerable individuals and families will we truly be able to assist families out of homelessness.
The moral at the heart of this story is transformation. We can transform systems that exist today so that they’re more proactive about preventing homelessness before it starts – and when it occurs, ending it swiftly with rapid re-housing techniques.
At a workshop that Ron organized for the National Coalition on Homeless Veterans, I had the honor of presenting data that show that African Americans are overrepresented among the homeless veteran population. As illustrated in the Alliance’s most recent report on homelessness among veterans, while African American veterans make up 10 – 11 percent of the veteran population, they make up 45 percent of the homeless veteran population.
As I was pulling together my slides for this presentation, I was struck by following from the HUD’s fifth Annual Homeless Assessment Report:
“When compared to their counterparts nationwide, homeless people are much more likely to be adult males, African Americans, non-elderly, alone, veterans and disabled.”
For more than two decades the homeless veteran’s population has been a scar on the face of America. The Heroes Today, Homeless Tomorrow Report (1991), set the stage, or tone at the national public policy level for dialogue. Yet little inside, or outside the national debate has focused on why African American veterans are continually disproportionately represented. Early Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust issues forums convened in 1992, and in 1993, in which deceased VA Secretary Jesse Brown (1992) testified, revealed that of the estimated 250,000 single male veterans who were homeless nationally, 40% were Black, or African American. The currently available literature does not reveal, nor does it provide meaningful explanations on this phenomenon. However, striking and overlapping seminal reports of the post Vietnam era Forgotten Warrior Project (1976), Legacies of Vietnam Study (1981), and National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (1984) all link black military enlistments with the quest for jobs, training, education and economic advantage. Thus, suggesting that today’s overwhelmingly male and disproportionately black homeless veteran’s population are worse off than before the Vietnam Conflict. There is a clear commitment according to new VA Secretary Eric Shinseki & Four Star U.S. Army General (Ret.) to end homelessness among veterans. Yet numerous professionals, practitioners, and advocates argue you can’t solve the homeless veterans problem unless you better understand why African American veterans are continually overrepresented among the homeless population factually! Despite, the overall reduction in homelessness from 195,000 homeless veterans six years ago.
In the words of Secretary Shinseki veterans’ lead the nation in homelessness, depression, substance abuse, suicides, and they rank up there in joblessness, as well. Approximately one half of homeless veterans are African America. While current estimates are that 131,000 veterans live on the streets of this the wealthiest and most powerful Nation in the world. More importantly, President Obama and the VA are committed to ending homelessness among veterans over the next five years.
1)One of the most obvious lessons learned is that there is a common perception among minority veterans that they are not being provided equal services by the VA system as reported by the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans Report in 2008.
2)The failure to redress, or adequately explain why significant differences exist in homeless rates between black and white veterans, has dire consequences for vulnerable black families and communities with fewer resources, or assets. For example, fatherlessness, family poverty, and community violence.
3)The rigorous pursue or examination of cause and effect relationships, or factors from an environmental perspective (not individual vulnerability) by VA and community based participatory research partners sensitive to the racial, ethnic, gender and class nuisances of vulnerable poor, black and/or communities with fewer resources, or assets is lacking.
4)Black veterans were still generally found to have higher nonemployment rates (nonemployment refers to individuals unable to find work, but still are searching for employment…) than white veterans, reflecting dominant national employment trends. (Greenberg & Rosenheck, 2007)
5)Blacks & Hispanics disproportionately suffer from serious labor market problems. This occurs despite gains in average educational attainment and increased representation in higher-paying occupations among these groups. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than Whites or Asians to be unemployed. When employed, Black and Hispanics are much more likely than Whites or Asians to be working in lower-paying occupations. Some factors include, but are not limited to: their lower average levels of schooling; their tendency to be employed in occupations that are subject to higher rates of unemployment; their greater concentration in the central cities of our urban areas, where job opportunities may be relatively limited; and the likelihood that they experience discrimination in the workplace. (Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2007)
One conclusion is that no systemic review and/or meta-analysis of homeless veteran’s scientific journal literature and no reports focusing on the disproportionate nature of African American homeless veterans have been published since Heroes Today, Homeless Tomorrow, 1991. Which either directly, or indirectly focus on black homeless veterans’ urban prevalence and incidence, or severity currently exist. For example, geographical distribution, risk factors, protective factors, utilization rates of homeless services, health status, mental health illnesses, substance abuse, employment considerations, poverty, housing, race and culture data. Also there are no cross-cutting studies from the VA healthcare system disciplines of psychiatry, psychology, social work, nursing, readjustment counseling, vocational rehabilitation, etc. The objective of such a review, analysis and/or comparisons would be (1) determine in which urban areas veterans status, race, ethnicity and homelessness predominate; (b) describe why there is disproportionate homelessness in predominantly urban areas of the country; and (c) qualitatively synthesize the existing knowledge to determine the best approaches for future national homelessness reduction efforts aimed at enhancing VA health equity, community development, neighborhood revitalization and family stabilization.